A Student-Led Solution For Food Insecurity On Campus

Our scholarship applicant’s projects are underway and we are beaming with pride over what they have accomplished! The most wholesome part of this scholarship program is watching kids across the nation (and sometimes even the globe) change their communities in such an intimate but profound way. Let’s take a closer look at one scholarship applicant that has participated by submitting forms one and two for feedback.

A student in North Carolina identified a food scarcity problem within her area, specifically among her peers within her school campus. She writes, 

“I think our community has a major food insecurity problem, I have been a part of the Food Lion Feeds project for two years and I feel like it is even more important to help others now than ever. I have been working to create a food pantry on my school’s high school/college campus for students to use as needed! I want to help others because knowing that students are coming to school and can’t purchase food or are struggling to do their work because they are hungry is completely unacceptable to me and I dislike that students have to go through that. I want to do this project because I never want a student to feel that way. My goal is to be able to provide lunch or dinner meals for students so they can be more productive and find more success in the classroom. I have hosted multiple food drives and have worked to have the pantry stocked up to 1000 items. I need to build relationships with other programs on campus to connect students in need so they can create more long-term fixes to their insecurities. My community has been very supportive and helpful throughout this project but managing the budget for this project has been a struggle and I need to learn more about this aspect.” 

We have been in contact with this student to brainstorm funding and budgeting, but we are confident she is on the right track and will be able to use this feedback to continue helping her peers and growing her pantry. In the first feedback submission, we suggested sending more photo evidence of what she has accomplished, and with form two, she did exactly that. This is just a small example of why these feedback forms can be so beneficial for our scholarship applicants, it gives them the chance to know what more we are looking for and how they can better their final application. 

We are all looking forward to where this project takes her and how it benefits her school’s campus both short-term and long-term! 

To the Parents Newly Entering the School System: You’ve Got This

I spent many years going to school to become a teacher. More specifically, a public school teacher. I wasn’t opposed to private or charter schools, but I did feel more of a draw for public schools. Maybe because that was my school experience, so that’s what I felt the most comfortable with? 

During my undergrad, I was able to spend time in around 5 different public schools and 1 public charter school in the Cache Valley, Utah area. It gave me a good look into the amazing, the good, the bad, and the ugly of our public school systems. 

When it came time to register my oldest for kindergarten, I was excited for her to start in a public school that I felt so drawn to! (For the record, I was open to her attending private or charter, but it’s not a feasible option in our current location.) We walked into the halls of the school on a mid-May day and could hear students practicing songs for their end-of-the-year program. We could physically feel the spring itch everyone had, ready for school to be out for the year so that summer vacation could officially commence. It made me so excited! We took the registration papers from the front desk, filled them out, and received all of the information we needed to know about the first day of school in the fall. 

The summer went on with constant excitement and conversation about starting school. I realized that as the day came closer and closer, the more nervous I felt. I tried not to let this show to my daughter, she was just one giant ball of excitement, and I knew if my nerves were showing, she would take them on herself, and that was something neither of us needed. 

Our school allowed parents to request teachers, but we were new to this town we were in and didn’t even have anyone we could ask for their opinions on which teacher to request! I assumed all four kindergarten teachers were probably amazing because it really takes an amazing human being to choose the profession of a kinder teacher. But when it came down to it, the reason I had so much anxiety about sending my daughter to school was the amount of control I had to give up as a parent. 

I’ve tried really hard not to be a helicopter mom to my kids and allow them as much independence as possible, which can sometimes be hard to do when you just want what’s best, easiest, and safest for your kids! However, research article after research article will tell you how important it is for children to have independence, opportunities for decision-making, and even moments of failure or risk. 

What ended up being the hard part for me was the fact that I had complete control over who was taking care of my children at any given time in their lives. Anytime we had babysitters, extra help with our kids, had to leave them overnight for something, or even just child care during work hours, I was always able to have a very large choice in the matter. When we chose a daycare for our kids, I took the time to tour and interview various daycares near us to choose which one I felt most comfortable sending my kids to. 

When it came time for my oldest to start public school, it wasn’t a matter of “tour various locations and interview many people to make the best possible decision.” It was a matter of, “This is where the boundaries say your child should go to school, so this is where you will go. Furthermore, we will assign teachers to the students.” 

Okay, it wasn’t that harsh. A lot of school districts will allow you to change schools and/or districts if you go through all of the right steps and paperwork. And they did allow requests for teachers. 

But in a large way, I really did feel like I was giving up so much of my voice and control over who my child spends time with and what she is exposed to all day every day by sending her to public school. It was daunting and anxiety-inducing. 

However, we are almost three months into it, and I’m realizing that it’s okay. 

It’s okay for her to be around a good diversity of safe adults within a public school. 

It’s okay for her to choose who to play with at recess. 

It’s okay for her to choose not to eat her lunch sometimes. 

It’s okay for her to grow and develop a relationship with her teacher, even if I didn’t handpick that teacher. 

So to all you parents that are new to any school system. Yes, even those that homeschooled for years and years and made the jump out of homeschooling and into public, private, or charter school. 

I see you. 

It’s hard and overwhelming to make this huge adjustment to your life. It’s overwhelming how many decisions are being made that you just cannot be a part of. It can be fearful to wonder what happens in those school hallways for all of those hours that you’re not there with your child, especially if you’ve been accustomed to staying home all day or most of the day with them. 

But it’s also so, so good. For both of you. And it’s okay for both feelings to exist at the same time. You’ve got this. 

Photo by Vlad Vasnetsov

Playing Preschool Round ✌🏽

A few years ago I started Busy Toddler’s Playing Preschool curriculum with my oldest. She was about three years old at the time and I wrote my review on the curriculum here. 

And now I’m back in the same position with my second child, utilizing our Playing Preschool guide once again! We trekked down to our storage room in the basement and pulled out the tape, dot stickers, pipe cleaners, and paint. We even dedicated a little corner in our home and call it the preschool room! 

Our Melissa and Doug calendar is set up on the wall and we start off our preschool day with poems and songs just like we did in the past. 

This is my second time around with the Playing Preschool curriculum and I am impressed all over again! It truly is learning through playing. As Susie from Busy Toddler promises, there are no worksheets and nothing complicated. It’s just everyday supplies gathered and utilized to help little minds grow and learn. A few things I’ve learned the second time around: 

  • I’ve taken the pressure off of myself to accomplish every single activity outlined for the day. Some days we get through it all, other days I see that learning isn’t happening and we need to take a break for the day. 
  • The repetition of one unit for two weeks can feel really… redundant for adults. After the 7th day of the apple theme, I didn’t want to look at or talk about apples ever again! But the repetition for those preschool-aged minds truly is crucial for learning. 
  • One of my cons on my last review was the hard time I had finding books to use because the pandemic shut down a lot of resources for finding what I needed. However, this time around with libraries open, it’s been much easier. After going through each of these units a second time, I’m more aware of what the needs are with the books used and can change and adapt the books as needed. 
  • The most important part of the entire Playing Preschool curriculum is to have fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong! 

Have you purchased Playing Preschool? What are your thoughts on the curriculum? 

New Logo, Who Dis?

The time has come to unveil the new branding for our scholarship! As I stepped into the role of scholarship chair and content writer, I began noticing some variations in the way that those who came before me referred to the scholarship. The original name for our scholarship was the Design A Better Future scholarship (which I’m assuming came from the fact that the projects needs to be based on the design thinking cycle). But as the years went on, it also started being referred to as the Build A Better future scholarship and both titles started being used interchangeably.

In order to *hopefully* limit future confusion, I decided to update the scholarship logo and declare one title to be the official title from now on. The HGU scholarship will henceforth be known as the Build A Better Future scholarship. I felt as though using the verb “design” was too passive and wasn’t giving our applicants enough credit. Yes, they are using the design thinking cycle but they are also going above and beyond to bring their designs to life.

design a better future scholarship high school seniors

In addition to updating the logo and title, the website has been updated with all the information needed for our 2023 scholarship! I look forward to seeing how the next group of applicants works on building a better future for their communities. If you or anyone you know is a high school senior that will be graduating in 2023, you can find more information regarding the scholarship here and here. Please email scholarship@honorsgraduation.com with any questions. Good luck!

Nourishing the Seed

Here is a brief list of book recommendations for middle grade readers (3rd-6th Grade). Stay tuned for more recommendations and more age groups!

Hooky by Miriam Bonastre Tur

One scoop of graphic novel, one dash of fantastical adventure, and two heaping tablespoons of witch makes this book the perfect recipe (or spell!) for the hesitant reader in your life. With beautiful illustrations and an engaging storyline, this is the perfect way to introduce middle-grade readers to novels without making them feel like they are reading a novel.

“When Dani and Dorian missed the bus to magic school, they never thought they’d wind up declared traitors to their own kind! Now, thanks to a series of mishaps, they are being chased by powerful magic families seeking the prophesied King of Witches and royals searching for missing princes.” -HaperCollins Publishers

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

“Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona… she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined.” -GoodReads

This book is the perfect reminder of the importance of friendship, courage, and acceptance (of yourself and others).

The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane by Julia Nobel

Nothing captivates a reader like the suspenseful twists and turns of a good mystery, and this book is no exception! Read aloud or read alone, you’ll find your readers on the edge of their seat.

With a dad who disappeared years ago and a mother who’s a bit too busy to parent, Emmy is shipped off to Wellsworth, a prestigious boarding school in England, where she’s sure she won’t fit in. But then she finds a box of mysterious medallions in the attic of her home with a note reading: These belonged to your father. When she arrives at school, she finds the strange symbols from the medallions etched into walls and books, which leads Emmy and her new friends, Jack and Lola, to Wellsworth’s secret society: The Order of Black Hollow Lane. Emmy can’t help but think that the society had something to do with her dad’s disappearance, and that there may be more than just dark secrets in the halls of Wellsworth…” -Sourcebooks

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Alright, this recommendation might come from a place of self-indulgence as this was a series that I absolutely LOVED as a kid. But I’ve also reread them as an adult, and they still hold up.

For centuries, mystical creatures of all description were gathered to a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary is one of the last strongholds of true magic. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite . . . Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws keep order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken, powerful forces of evil are unleashed, forcing Kendra and Seth to face the greatest challenge of their lives, to save their family, Fablehaven, and perhaps even the world.” -Shadow Mountain

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Boys don’t keep diaries—or do they? It’s a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. The hazards of growing up before you’re ready are uniquely revealed through words and drawings as Greg records them in his diary.” -ABRAMS Publishing

Anyone who has been a kid, is a kid, has kids, or has even looked at a kid has heard of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. This series is another resource to encourage disinterested readers. I mean, Jeff Kinney wouldn’t be able to write a 17-book series because kids aren’t reading his books, so he clearly knows a thing or two about getting kids excited about reading.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Accidentally built sideways and standing thirty stories high (the builder said he was very sorry for the mistake), Wayside School has some of the wackiest classes in town, especially on the thirtieth floor. That’s where you’ll meet Bebe, the fastest draw in art class; John, who only reads upside down; Myron, the best class president ever; and Sammy, the new kid—he’s a real rat.” -HarperCollins Publishing

Comedic, clever, and kooky; this book has it all! With chapters that read like short stories, it is ideal for reading out loud. These far-fetched stories will fetch a laugh or two (or 89).

Introducing Shoshana Folic: The 2022 Scholarship Top Recipient

This is part of a series of blog posts introducing you to our 2022 Build A Better Future scholarship recipients and their projects. We hope you will find their stories as inspiring as we do! For information on our scholarship, click here.

The final scholarship awardee I have for you is Shoshana Folic! Shoshana’s project, Wishing’ U Well, earned her our top spot; which means that in addition to her $10,000 scholarship, she was awarded a $5,000 grant to continue funding her project.

From a very young age, Shoshana began noticing a lack of resources made available to the special needs community. Even before she started Wishing’ U Well, she volunteered with the Best Buddies organization, which offered her valuable insight into the needs of the community and the issues they face. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it exacerbated the disparity and Shoshana knew she needed to do more. She started the Wishing’ U Well platform at the age of fifteen, using her skills as a STEM student to maximize the resources that she wanted to make available. To quote Shoshana directly,

“Wishing’ U Well is a free online platform that is focused on improving the mental, physical, social, and spiritual well-being of those with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The Wishing’ U Well website is equipped with a multitude of different resources, sponsors, and social meetings between Florida high school volunteers and the special needs community.”

The website includes several sections, including workout tips and videos, basic nutrition information, coloring pages and playlists designed to encourage relaxation, mantras and affirmations, and–my personal favorite–the Fun With Friends program. Fun With Friends matches a special needs individual with a high school volunteer based on interests and hobbies and allows them to meet once a week via Zoom to talk, laugh, and bond with each other. Wishing’ U Well also hosts virtual group activities, such as drawing and cooking classes.

When it first launched, Wishing U’ Well only had five members in the special needs community, but has now reached over 850 special needs members from 17 different countries. They have also had over 100 high school students volunteer for the Fun With Friends program. Shoshana is actually trying to encourage more special needs members to join this community, as they have more volunteers than they know what to do with.

Moving forward, Shoshana would like to build up her network of sponsors and content creators to spread the word, increase special needs engagement, and supply even more resources. If you are (or know) someone who might be interested in sponsoring, promoting, or creating content for the Wishing’ U Well organization, you can send an email to shoshana.wishinguwell@gmail.com. Sponsors can be anyone from businesses, non-profits, sports teams, and social media influencers.

Likewise, if you know someone in the special needs community who you think could benefit from the resources provided by the Wishing’ U Well organization (hint: that’s everyone!), or if you would like additional information, please visit the official website: https://www.wishinguwell.org/

Wishing’ U Well can also be found on the following social media sites:

Instagram: wishing.u.well

Facebook: Wishing’ U Well

Twitter: @Wishinguwell_

A big congratulations to Shoshana for winning the top spot and a huge round of applause for her and all the work she has done in providing resources to the special needs community.

Introducing Brooklyn Conrad: A 2022 Scholarship Winner

This is part of a series of blog posts introducing you to our 2022 Build A Better Future scholarship recipients and their projects. We hope you will find their stories as inspiring as we do! For information on our scholarship, click here.

Up next on our scholarship winner docket is Brooklyn Conrad! Brooklyn has been a member of her local 4-H since the fourth grade, which provided her with countless service opportunities. Some of those opportunities included gathering donations for her community food shelf. She began noticing that most of the food being donated was highly processed and it opened her eyes to the lack of fresh and healthy foods available to those in need.

And thus, the “Feeding Growing Minds for a Healthy Future” campaign was born.

Brooklyn began meeting with local and county government officials, stakeholders, and community members and explaining the importance of making healthier food choices available to those in need. Through her own research, she learned how to make garden beds from IBC totes and wire cattle fencing. With the help of master gardeners and the food shelf coordinators, she received instruction on what produce was most in-demand and which plants would be best for her garden.

In May of 2021, she was ready to get to work. Brooklyn was able to use her 4-H connection to assemble a group of volunteers and together, they planted a variety of vegetables. She watered the garden throughout the summer, and by July, there were vegetables ready to be harvested and donated to the food shelf. She continued nurturing her project and at the time of her application in May of this year, they had already prepped and planted the gardens for another season of fresh produce.

By partnering with her 4-H chapter, she made certain that her food shelf will continue to receive healthier food alternatives. She has been teaching current 4-H members how to maintain the garden and she connected them with a master gardener for additional expertise. Moving forward, Brooklyn hopes to share her project with other counties and is actively gathering resources and materials to help them start their own food shelf gardens. She also wants to set up a system where community members can donate extra produce from their own gardens to local food shelves, ensuring that an even greater variety of fresh fruits and vegetables are going to those who need them instead of going to waste.